Monthly Archives: April 2014

Talk to Your Sons About The L.A.Clippers

It has been front page news for a few days now: L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made some outrageously offensive racist comments about Black people to his Black and Hispanic girlfriend. Talk to your sons about this situation, and ask them what they would do if they played for or were the coach of the L.A. Clippers.

The team decided to play yesterday’s game, and staging a silent protest during warm-ups, and they are playing again on Monday night. Would your son have decided to play the game? Talk about the issues that probably came up during a team discussion: whether they should forfeit the playoff game that they’d been working all season to get to play in, or whether they should continue to play for an owner who appears to have made blatantly racist comments. Talk about all the competing pressures on the team: the instinct to walk away from the game, likely supported by outraged family and friends, versus the urge to prove to themselves that they have the ability to win, coupled with the potential economic consequences of refusing to play, and how much does that matter under these circumstances?

Certainly you have had may versions of these conversations with friends and co-workers over the past few days, conversations which will continue as the playoff games continue and the NBA Commissioner attempts to authenticate the recording of these comments and determine the league’s response. But take the time to talk with your sons about this situation, and keep talking with them about it as events unfold. More importantly, keep listening to their thoughts about these events. Ask them what they would do going forward if they were a Clippers player, if they were the NBA Commissioner. Keep talking, and keep listening.

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, College Bound Students, Parents, Saving Our Sons, Sports

Thoughtful Thursday: Spring Poems

Notwithstanding the strong chill in the air and the whipping winds that continue to greet us each morning on the East Coast, it is Spring, so it is about time that we pay tribute to the season on Thoughtful Thursday. We shall do so with a hodgepodge of poems about Spring.

We begin with two poems by classic African American poets: “Spring Song” written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Langston Hughes’ ode to Spring, “In Time of Silver Rain”.

We conclude with two contemporary poets’ works, “In Perpetual Spring” by Amy Gerstler, which was included in her book of poetry which won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award, and “Today” by Billy Collins, who served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003. Enjoy.

Spring Song

A blue–bell springs upon the ledge,
A lark sits singing in the hedge;
Sweet perfumes scent the balmy air,
And life is brimming everywhere.
What lark and breeze and bluebird sing,
Is Spring, Spring, Spring!

No more the air is sharp and cold;
The planter wends across the wold,
And, glad, beneath the shining sky
We wander forth, my love and I.
And ever in our hearts doth ring
This song of Spring, Spring!

For life is life and love is love,
‘Twixt maid and man or dove and dove.
Life may be short, life may be long,
But love will come, and to its song
Shall this refrain for ever cling
Of Spring, Spring, Spring!

Paul Laurence Dunbar

In Time of Silver Rain

In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads

Of Life,
Of Life,
Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,

In time of silver rain
When spring
And life
Are new.

Langston Hughes

In Perpetual Spring

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

Amy Gerstler


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins

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April is Volunteer Month — Tell Your Sons About This Inspirational Volunteer

Did you know that April, in addition to being Poetry month and Mathematics month is also Volunteer month? (Who makes these designations, we ask?) Anyway, in April we pay tribute to the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in our communities. And here at GCP we are happy to spread the word about young Hector Montoya, a 9 year old from Grand Prairie, Texas, who took impressive action to solve a community problem.

Hector had been saving up his money to buy a Playstation 4 game console, when he learned that a house in a nearby town had caught fire, and the mother and daughter in the house were killed. Hector decided to use his $300 in Playstation 4 savings to buy almost 100 smoke detectors for homes in his neighborhood for people who didn’t have them, including seniors and shut-ins. “It really hurts my heart to see people die in a fire,” Hector told local reporters. “Saving a life is more important”. When people heard of his good deed via the local news, they also responded generously, by rewarding Hector with a new Playstation 4, and contributing an additional $150 towards the purchase of additional smoke detectors.

Check out the video here. Share Hector’s story with your sons and talk with them about the importance of doing for others, not just in April but every month!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Parents, Resources

Thoughtful Thursday: Thinking about Math

Did you know that April was Math Awareness month? So we at GCP are turning our thoughts to mathematics. We pay tribute to Benjamin Banneker, present some math quotes, and, as April is still Poetry Month as well, present a math based Langston Hughes poem. Enjoy.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was a largely self-educated mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs, inventor and writer. He was born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. A free black who owned a farm near Baltimore, Banneker was largely self-educated in astronomy by watching the stars and in mathematics by reading borrowed textbooks. He constructed a wooden clock in his early twenties, despite having seen only one other timepiece in his life. His knowledge of astronomy helped him author a commercially successful series of almanacs. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on the topics of slavery and racial equality. He firmly believed, and was quoted as saying, “The colour of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or intellectual powers.”

Math Quotes

“Some mathematician, I believe, has said that true pleasure lies not in the discovery of truth, but in the search for it.” Tolstoy

“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.” Rene Descartes

“Mathematics is like love, a simple idea, but it can get complicated.” Anonymous

“Do not worry too much about your difficulties in mathematics, I can assure you that mine are still greater.”–Albert Einstein

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Issac Newton

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein


2 and 2 are 4.
4 and 4 are 8.

But what would happen
If the last 4 was late?

And how would it be
If one 2 was me?

Or if the first 4 was you
Divided by 2?

Langston Hughes

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Good News on the College Admissions Front

For the fifth year in a row, all 240 of Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies seniors have been accepted into over 200 four year colleges and universities. The seniors, all African American young men, celebrated their success at a ceremony where they exchanged the red ties of their daily uniform for the red and gold striped ties signaling their impressive accomplishments. Here they are celebrating:


Congrats to the seniors of Urban Prep! You can read a bit more about them here. Check out our previous posts “And Now For Some Good News From Chicago”s Urban Prep” (April 12, 2012) and More Good News from Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies” (April 1, 2013) to learn more about how well this school has been doing.

In other college admissions news, Harvard University has just accepted the highest percentage of black students ever for the class of 2018, which will start in the fall. Almost 12 percent of the total applicants who were offered admission next fall are black. You can read more about it here.

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Family Ties: How Can Parents Help Create Them?


A good male friend recently described the relationship between his two teen sons as “non-existent”. Different social circles, different schools, unconnected lives living in the same house. If one is away for a while, the other will eventually ask about him, but only casually, and he certainly doesn’t want his brother to know that he cares. My friend assures me that his boys are going through the normal stage of wanting nothing to do with one another, and that he is sure they will reconnect down the line.

He had to assure me of this, because I’ve not experienced a phase where any of my three children didn’t get along fairly well with each other. The fact that several years separate each of them (3 years between my first two, then 4 years between the second and third) could be a big factor. They had to spend a good deal of time together when they were young, of course, but they were always at different developmental stages, so the competitive level generally stayed pretty low.

I am sure that my friend is quite right about his sons, and he is wisely adopting the “don’t sweat the small stuff” parenting approach. But I have to confess that it would bug me if my children weren’t close. I am not talking “we don’t need any other friends” close, but at least “I’m cool with hanging with you around the house” close. This leads me to wonder: what, if anything, can parents do to promote friendship among their children?

“How to Get Siblings To Get Along” in Chicago Parents, found here, had some good suggestions. I particularly liked the following:

Encourage an Expectation of Closeness: Katie Allison Granju, a mom of five kids and author of Attachment Parenting, suggests that parents have a baseline expectation within the family that siblings will be friends, and subtly make sure that everyone understands that expectation. Encourage your children to view each other as allies. As Pat Shimm of the Barnard Toddler Center says, your ultimate goal is to have your children join forces together against you, the “management”, for that is how their bonds form and grow.

Support Each Other’s Activities: Insist (where reasonable) that your children attend some of their sibling’s activities and games. It involves them more in each other’s lives and gives them an opportunity to cheer for (or console) one another.

Family Conversations: I groan a bit at any forced encounters (like a planned “family meeting”) but making time for family conversations, be they around the dinner table (a great place to promote togetherness) or in the car, allows your children to listen to one another’s thoughts and ideas. Enforcing rules that everyone has to be polite and not interrupt will help keep the conversation civil and productive. It also gives everyone an opportunity to laugh together, which is always good.

Don’t Compare: A surefire way to poison sibling relationships is to play favorites or suggest that one child should act more like another. Don’t do it, even if one seems to have all the common sense (smarts, talent, whatever) in the world and the other none. Nothing good comes from your saying “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister”? Nothing.

Establish Family Traditions: Chicago psychologist Dr. Mark Sharp notes that anything that helps kids identify as a part of the family is particularly helpful. “Family traditions, family rituals, these experiences create a sense of bond. That helps create a shared identity, which helps them feel closer.” When my children were young we established Fridays as Pizza Night, which ensured that the three of them (and often all of us) would enjoy yummy casual dining at the end of the week. Even now if one of the older two is home from college on a Friday, he or she expects to see the pizza boxes on the counter and whatever sibling is home seated at the table.

These are suggestions, not prescriptions. Sometimes no matter what you do your children will refuse to get along, and will seem not to care about one another. But it certainly won’t hurt to focus on some of these tips, and it could even help.

What do you do to encourage your children to strengthen their family ties to one another? Please share your tips!

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Saving Our Sons

Thoughtful Thursday: It’s National Poetry Month!


April is National Poetry month, and in honor of this, today’s Thoughtful Thursday will feature two poems about writing poetry. John Brehm’s “The Poems I Have Not Written”, and Billy Collins’ “Workshop,” use humor to offer insight into the poetry writing process. Enjoy.

The Poems I Have Not Written

I’m so wildly unprolific, the poems
I have not written would reach
from here to the California coast
if you laid them end to end.

And if you stacked them up,
the poems I have not written
would sway like a silent
Tower of Babel, saying nothing

and everything in a thousand
different tongues. So moving, so
filled with and emptied of suffering,
so steeped in the music of a voice

speechless before the truth,
the poems I have not written
would break the hearts of every
woman who’s ever left me,

make them eye their husbands
with a sharp contempt and hate
themselves for turning their backs
on the very source of beauty.

The poems I have not written
would compel all other poets
to ask of God: “Why do you
let me live? I am worthless.

please strike me dead at once,
destroy my works and cleanse
the earth of all my ghastly
imperfections.” Trees would

bow their heads before the poems
I have not written. “Take me,”
they would say, “and turn me
into your pages so that I

might live forever as the ground
from which your words arise.”
The wind itself, about which
I might have written so eloquently,

praising its slick and intersecting
rivers of air, its stately calms
and furious interrogations,
its flutelike lingerings and passionate

reproofs, would divert its course
to sweep down and then pass over
the poems I have not written,
and the life I have not lived, the life

I’ve failed even to imagine,
which they so perfectly describe.

John Brehm


I might as well begin by saying how much I like the title.
It gets me right away because I’m in a workshop now
so immediately the poem has my attention,
like the Ancient Mariner grabbing me by the sleeve.

And I like the first couple of stanzas,
the way they establish this mode of self-pointing
that runs through the whole poem
and tells us that words are food thrown down
on the ground for other words to eat.
I can almost taste the tail of the snake
in its own mouth,
if you know what I mean.

But what I’m not sure about is the voice,
which sounds in places very casual, very blue jeans,
but other times seems standoffish,
professorial in the worst sense of the word
like the poem is blowing pipe smoke in my face.
But maybe that’s just what it wants to do.

What I did find engaging were the middle stanzas,
especially the fourth one.
I like the image of clouds flying like lozenges
which gives me a very clear picture.
And I really like how this drawbridge operator
just appears out of the blue
with his feet up on the iron railing
and his fishing pole jigging—I like jigging—
a hook in the slow industrial canal below.
I love slow industrial canal below. All those l’s.

Maybe it’s just me,
but the next stanza is where I start to have a problem.
I mean how can the evening bump into the stars?
And what’s an obbligato of snow?
Also, I roam the decaffeinated streets.
At that point I’m lost. I need help.

The other thing that throws me off,
and maybe this is just me,
is the way the scene keeps shifting around.
First, we’re in this big aerodrome
and the speaker is inspecting a row of dirigibles,
which makes me think this could be a dream.
Then he takes us into his garden,
the part with the dahlias and the coiling hose,
though that’s nice, the coiling hose,
but then I’m not sure where we’re supposed to be.
The rain and the mint green light,
that makes it feel outdoors, but what about this wallpaper?
Or is it a kind of indoor cemetery?
There’s something about death going on here.

In fact, I start to wonder if what we have here
is really two poems, or three, or four,
or possibly none.

But then there’s that last stanza, my favorite.
This is where the poem wins me back,
especially the lines spoken in the voice of the mouse.
I mean we’ve all seen these images in cartoons before,
but I still love the details he uses
when he’s describing where he lives.
The perfect little arch of an entrance in the baseboard,
the bed made out of a curled-back sardine can,
the spool of thread for a table.
I start thinking about how hard the mouse had to work
night after night collecting all these things
while the people in the house were fast asleep,
and that gives me a very strong feeling,
a very powerful sense of something.
But I don’t know if anyone else was feeling that.
Maybe that was just me.
Maybe that’s just the way I read it.

Billy Collins

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Are You Focused on Your Son’s Arts Education? You Should Be.

Does your son’s school offer arts education? If it is a New York City public school, there is a good chance it doesn’t, according to a report recently released by the NYC Comptroller’s office, and covered here by the New York Times. The report shows that 20 percent of NYC public schools lack any arts teachers, including roughly one out of seven middle and high schools, even though state law requires arts instruction for middle and high school students.

As the report, found here, notes, arts education has long been recognized by teachers and parents for its positive impact on students in and out of the classroom. In 2012 the National Endowment for the Arts analyzed the relationship between arts engagement and students’ academic and social outcomes. They found that that high students who had were deeply involved with arts programs in school:

Had higher GPA’s than students with lower levels of arts engagement;

Enrolled at higher rates in competitive and four year colleges than students less involved in arts programs; and

Were 3 times as likely than their peers without arts training to earn a bachelor’s degree.

They also found that students with low socioeconomic status and a history of high arts engagement had better grades and higher college enrollment and attainment rates than students’ not involved in the arts.

So what can parents do if your son’s school, in NYC or anywhere else, is lacking in arts education? GCP will be focusing on this in more depth in a later post, but here are some immediate steps:

Do Your Homework: Check out websites that focus on what parents can do to encourage their children’s arts education, like PBS Parents’ Art Education site, found here, which has lots of information and great links.

Do-It-Yourself: Many websites also provide instruction for parents who want to encourage and develop their child’s creativity in the absence of a school arts program. has tips to “Make Sure Your Child Gets an Arts Education”, found here. In “Parents Teach Art: A DIY Approach to Elementary Arts Education”, found here, an enterprising parent has put an art curriculum on line for others to use in their schools.

Work With Other Parents to Bring Arts Education to your Son’s School: The Center for Arts Education has a Parent Toolkit which gives advice and instruction on how to convince your school that an arts program is critical. Learn more about it here. Visit the CEA website, found here, for parent guides which include information about how you can support arts education at home and at school.

Arts education is a critical part of our sons (and daughters) development, and we can’t stand by and let a school’s limited budget deny them this opportunity for growth and engagement. Check out what your son’s school offers, and if it is not enough, start figuring out how to help your son get more!

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GCP Food for Thought

Just a quick posting of two thought-provoking articles:

In “Teaching My Son to Love Himself”, found here, author Faye McCray wonders about the extent to which her son struggles with issues of identity when he finds a white girl is prettier than a Black one.

A white father of an African-American son shares “What I Learned About Stop-and-Frisk From Watching My Black Son”, found here.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Classic Expressions to Share with your Sons

Yes, we know it is not Thursday. But we so love Thoughtful Thursday that even though we were not able to post yesterday, we are posting it today. When we were unable to post, the old expression “a day late and a dollar short” rang in our ears. So, we’ve decided to devote today’s Thoughtful Thursday to favorite expressions our parents and grandparents always used, which got to the heart of so many matters. We’ve included brief definitions in case you haven’t heard them. Do you know all of these? Do your children? Enjoy.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short— late and unprepared

That and 50 cents will get you on the subway— A New York City based expression (established some time ago, since it has been a while since the subway fare was 50 cents), meaning don’t get too caught up with yourself.

Don’t spit on my head and tell me it is raining— don’t try to fool me

You make your bed hard you lie in it hard –you must suffer the consequences of your actions

(Give it) a lick and a promise— a quick cleaning

Between a rock and a hard place— having a very tough decision to make

(I have) a bone to pick with you — an issue which needs resolving

Champagne tastes and beer money (or beer budget)–big budget tastes on a small budget

If wishes were horses beggars would ride–if you could wish your way to success everyone would do so

That’s the pot calling the kettle black–you’re accusing others of things you do

They put their pants on one leg at a time–no one is more special than anyone else

Are the favorite sayings your parents or grandparents said here? If not, please share yours!


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